Monday, January 19, 2009

Steampunk Challenge - Final Submission

Hooray, I managed to get something done enough to enter as a final image!

There are a lot of things that I'm going to go back and fix in this, but I'm very happy with how it came out. I hope you like it too.

Now it's time to decompress and get away from this computer.

Steampunk Challenge - Much better today

I got quite a lot done today:

... but it's still not really anywhere near "done," there are still some basic things that aren't completed like the full bodies of the crowd lower right, the Tortoise smoke trails, and many of the smaller (but less important) parts of the Tortoise that just aren't there at all.

Some of the things I want to put in probably aren't necessary to have it complete enough for the contest, and I can leave them out. However, I hear that the contest upload server is straining and that there's a day-long queue to even get a final image sent in, so at this point I have to assume that even if I can "finish" enough tomorrow, I won't get the image in by the deadline.

While that's a drag, I knew it was a significant possibility when I started work on the image. The contest began on Nov. 10, which was right when we started moving into our new apartment - a long drawn-out process. I didn't even start the first idea drawings until a month after that, and wasn't able to seriously start painting until after the new year. Had I not been dealing with the move and everything else, I would have been painting by Nov. 15 or 16 instead of Jan. 10!

So, if I don't make it, it's okay. Have no fear that I will still finish this image all the way out. It's the first piece I've done in a long time that I'm looking at and thinking, "hey, I really like this, it makes me happy!" I think it's going to get some attention regardless of how it fares in the contest.

Now, bedtime.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Steampunk Challenge - Frenzy at the end

Here's where I'm at now:

I've made a lot of progress but the deadline is looming and it looks like another very late night. Now I'm hearing that the CGTalk server is once again exploding and so I may not be able to upload my "final" image anyway, so all this work will be - in terms of this contest - for nothing.

It will not be for nothing in terms of getting a really cool image in my portfolio.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Steampunk Challenge - More Hare

Have made a lot of progress on the Hare last night and today, taking a short break to post:

Just pluggin' along, lots to do still obviously, so gotta get back to it...

Friday, January 16, 2009

Steampunk Challenge - Hare Conditioning

Tonight's progress, worked pretty much just on the Hare:

Here's a detail zoom of it so you can see more visible progress:

I tried to work hard to not zoom in past 100%, because this thing is farther from the eye and doesn't need as much detail. I have a bad habit of zooming in to 300-400% and noodling pixel-by-pixel.

One thing I wish Painter had was the ability to open more than one window for a document, like Photoshop. When I paint in Pshop I almost always have 2 windows open, one zoomed to either 100% or to a zoom that reflects where the viewer will see the image from, and the one where I work. That way if I'm digging into a detail I can tell whether it will even be noticeable when it's done. Painter can't do that, and zooming back and forth just interrupts my workflow.

OK, bedtime. I actually should be able to work on this both during the day and evening tomorrow, so I expect to make more rapid progress.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Steampunk Challenge - Frame done (for now)

Here's where I got to tonight:

All the scrollwork and filigree for the frame is finished. Just need to paint in the portraits of Arlo and the Commodore, a couple of small touches near there, add the lettering, and then make it sepiatone. For now, I'm done working on the frame. I'm quite happy with the result tho I'd like to have done it faster.

Tomorrow, back to the rest of the image. Once again, it's due on Monday 1159 GMT, so I now have 4 days to get this done. I should be able to devote some of my daytime work hours to it tomorrow and Friday, and then Saturday I'm gonna lock myself in the office and put in 10 to 12 hours, trying to get the bulk of the rest of it done. That will leave Sunday to work at a more relaxed pace on final touches, and all day Monday to get it uploaded in case the servers are choking again.

As I mentioned, I've been painting live on UStream at night between the hours of 9pm-1am Pacific Time (tonight it was just 10:30-12), so if please drop by, hang out, watch me paint and listen to me ramble on about whatever crosses my mind. :)

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Steampunk Challenge - Frame Continued

I'm super-tired so I'll just post today's progress, almost done with the frame:

I've been live broadcasting the painting on UStream, nights from around 9pm-1am Pacific Time, so come on by and watch if you like. I talk a lot and spin some music too. :)

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Steampunk Challenge - Extended!

Whew! CGTalk has pushed back the deadline for the Challenge, because they've had some serious server problems and people couldn't upload their art. I have another week, which means I can get this thing done without killing myself!

I spent most of today working on the frame (and watching football, which slowed me down a lot):

Oops. The black space on the right is where I mix palette colors and put reference images. Forgot to crop it off. Below is some step-by-step of the frame work...

Here's where I started. First I selected the frame edge from the rough color layer and duplicated it to a new layer. Then I desaturated it so that I could work with just values; I didn't want to get caught up in messing with color on it. I'm going to make it all sepia-toned so once the value is down I can just colorize it with the Hue/Saturation sliders:

Next I zoom in and start working on the top left picture frame, which will be a portrait of Commodore Rasmussen:

A little further along:

With this frame, I'm keeping the light source pretty much directly vertical in front. I'm not using the sun angle from the interior illustration, as I'm going for a circus poster/Currier & Ives kind of look. Also, I will use dastardly digital trickery - I will only paint the left side of this, then mirror it for the right side. Much, much time saved. I'll have to make some changes to the other side (not least painting a new portrait of Mr. Crabthwaite), but there's so much detail and painstaking work that I don't want to do it twice.

Ah, here's some trickery now. I don't have to paint both sides of the oval frame, I can duplicate and flip the one side, and erase to make it match:

Now, moving down the side a bit, here's some Ionic column action, using photo reference from Google Image Search:

From the top of the column to the base of the frame, I want to put in some more decoration. Here, I'm using Painter's wonderful ability to rotate the image on screen like turning a piece of paper (Photoshop CS4 now has this too) to make the curve sweep with the natural swing of my forearm from the elbow:

Yet more trickery - why paint a repeating detail more than once? Select, duplicate, move!

Trickery isn't perfect, however. You can see the repeated roundels don't quite sit properly, especially the ones to the far right:

So back to the paintbrush to blend them in:

Turn the image back to vertical, then paint in some more decorations, an urn and some leaves. No trickery here, just an "oil" paintbrush:

Then I add a kind of oval-shaped alcove with stonework visible. I'm going to put a little statue in here on each side - this one for a hare, the other side for a tortoise (real animals, not machinery):

The area around the upper part of the frame is blank, so I want to add some leaf/vine bas-relief, inspired by an 1860's playhouse poster I found on Google. First a quick line pass to place them:

Then I darken in the background:

Then very painstakingly I paint in all the highlights and shadows, trying to make it look not like real plants, but like a carved-stone facade:

There's no shortcut to any of this for me, it's just a lot of tiny detail work done with brushes set to 3, 2, and 1 pixel width. It's kind of like what Syd Mead does with his Windsor Newton #2 brushes on giant 20x30 illustrations. This work represents around 8 hours of time elapsed, and it's about half the work this side of the frame will need. If I hadn't been watching football, it's possible I could have done it in 5 hours or so.

More work tomorrow night; I have paying work to finish and I have to do a comic for tomorrow. Maybe if I can figure out how to do UStream I'll try to work live?

Steampunk Challenge - Details, details

I've been working on this most of the day and though there's visible progress, I feel like I'm going nowhere. Pretty sure now that I won't have this thing to a point where it will be competitive in the Challenge by the deadline on Monday. I'll still turn in what's done, of course, but I'll still have a lot to do to finish it. Well, here's where I am:

I've started taking screen grabs at various points to show progress in more detail. In this one, I laid down some lines to show me the sun angle:

Made them on a separate layer in Screen mode, then turned the opacity way down so they're just barely visible. Then I started working on some details in the Tortoise and Arlo:

He's a cheery, florid fellow, basking in the glory of his underdog upset win:

More details on machinery and clothing:

Here he's pretty close to finished, tho there were more tweaks before I grabbed the top image:

Then I moved on to some work on the Hare, let's not leave out our villain Commodore Rasmussen:

I like how the image is going and I think it will work pretty well when it's finished. Usually about now I'm really hating the painting, but right now I think it's okay and even though it's a lot of work it will be worth it.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Steampunk Challenge - Today so far

I've put in some time on the people in the lower right:

Here's an enlarged version so you can see it better:

I never used to have fun trying to paint realistic-ish people, because it's hard. But after doing something like 65 of them for the Sopranos video game, it's a whole lot easier. These were fun to do, coming up with some little story in my head for each one.

Unfortunately, with them painted in I can see that they're too large for where they're standing, so I will either scale them down or I'll scale up the Tortoise. Not sure which yet, still have a bit of time to figure that out.

Time to take a break, it's been a busy day...

Steampunk Challenge - Little by little

Boy, for an unemployed guy I sure have a lot going on these last few days... but still, I've managed to make a little progress. Here's some work on the tortoise:

And then some similar work on the hare:

I'm questioning whether I'll be done with this in time, because I have some actual paying work now and much other stuff to do over the weekend, but I'm really going to try to make it. I might have to try to block out all of Sunday and Monday just to concentrate on this one... We'll see.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Steampunk Challenge - Painting Begins

A very fast color rough-out, all on one layer just to quickly start working toward what I see in my head:

I just wanted to have a loose place to start from, playing with a little bit of color. I really feel like I have to compress my process and run as fast as I can with it, so I'm not doing a grayscale value pass or tightening up any details on the sketch. I'm just going to try to trust myself to find that image that I see in my head with the paint, and hope it doesn't come back to bite me, heh.

Below, the same image without the pencil sketch:

So now on to the first real passes at the main components. I'm going to start with the main subject and hopefully center of attention, our hero Mr. Crabthwaite...

...and his Tortoise machine.

I'm seeing the Tortoise as having copper exterior plating on the shell, at least the top half and the head, with the darkish blue-grays and blacks of cast iron and steel for the frame, load-bearing legs and other structural details. It's going to be a fairly rough finish compared to the Hare, which will have a lot of shiny metal cladding and some painted colors on it. Our Mr. Crabthwaite built it in his backyard out of whatever he could get his hands on, with a shoe-string budget, where the Commodore had his own personal fortune and backing from other wealthy investors.

Steampunk Challenge - Layout "Finalized"

Time is up for doing layout, so here's what I'm going with:

The Hare has been redrawn from scratch. TGF pointed out that the previous pose could be stronger and bring the eye back into the image, so I quickly redid the sketch, then moved it around until it looked okay to me.

IMO, this still may not be the best solution to my illustration problem, but it's strong enough to stick with it. I'm going to keep everything on layers, which I don't usually do, in order to allow some tweaking later on.

Time to start painting! Wish me luck...

Friday, January 02, 2009

Steampunk Challenge - First Steps

Right, so, holidays are over. Back to work!! I only have 9 days to complete my challenge entry, so it's time to just do the painting. I'm starting out with a rough layout sketch in blue pencil on 9x12 Bristol paper:

This is kinda what I saw in my head when I first thought about the Tortoise vs. Hare theme. It's a start, but I'm not sold on it. I've scanned it into Photoshop, so now I'm going to cut out the main components of the image so I can play with them and move them around. First the Tortoise:

And then the Hare:

I'm using Ctrl-J to duplicate the selection to a new layer. Since there's a lot of tone to the original scan, it's giving me kind of an old-timey tracing paper look, which I think is fun.

I did the lower left scrollwork more completely than the right, so I select, duplicate, flip and move it to mirror to the other side:

I like the shape of the picture oval at top right better, so I do the same and mirror it to the other side. Then I erase the mirrored Mr. Crabthwaite...

...and paste in the Commodore instead. I'm really diggin' the tracing paper vibe, reminds me of doing stuff like this when I was a kid:

So here's the main meat of what we've got, the two contestants and the frame. I'm going for a really 19th-century poster or playbill or even newspaper look, basing on things like Barnum & Bailey Circus posters:

At this point I'm not liking how big the Hare is. Even though the contraption is inherently much larger than the Tortoise, the scale is feeling odd to me and I can't really seem to get a handle on how the road underneath it is going. So I'm gonna make the Hare smaller to push it back and allow me to show more of the road, while also really roughly sketching in some of the landscape:

There, that's better. I think this is a workable layout. Then I think to myself, well gee, there's not a lot of crowd showing - you'd think this race would have a pretty good turnout at the finish line. And maybe the whole image is a bit squashed? What would it look like if I changed the aspect ratio to a wide view? Photoshop magic, commence:

I roughly doubled the width of the image and spread everything out a bit, then re-sketched the rough background. You can see there's lots more crowd and a much clearer view of the whole road. We lose some sky but maybe I can re-work the landscape... oh wait. There's way too much dead space to the right of the Hare. Crop tool time...

OK, that's better. Looks more balanced to me. I've got some triangular composition going between the Tortoise, Hare and the guy with the finish flag. The curves on the road guide the eye better, I think. This is workable too.

Now, decision time. I have 9 days. Do I really want to paint a big crowd of people? That takes time. Can I figure out some painterly shortcuts to speed that process up? Maybe. I'll sleep on it, but at this point I'm leaning toward staying with the vertical layout and finding a way to compress a feel of more crowd and also a better suggestion of how the road works in there.

More tomorrow...